It's been the same story since you were in high school. The younger students look up to the upperclassmen because they're cool. The upperclassmen don't know the freshmen are alive, because, well...they're cool. Tanner Thompson, an agriculture teacher at Prague Public Schools in Prague, Okla. came up with a fun way to bring the two groups together and at the same time give older FFA members ownership in creating and executing an activity of their own design.
Thompson's FFA Big/Little program pairs Junior and Senior FFA members with younger members in a mentor/mentee relationship. Tanner tasked his upperclassmen with planning and implementing all aspects of the program, since they would be the big brothers and sisters. Giving them control over the activity encouraged enthusiastic buy-in, a key to its success. The student organizers chose to have the Big/Little program last for one week at the beginning of the school year, with each day having its own activity. Throughout the entire week, the Littles were not aware of who their Bigs were. Before the week started, Littles completed an interest survey so their Bigs could tailor the activities to meet their interests.
The program was voluntary, and Thompson ended up with 13 Bigs and 20 Littles, so some Bigs had "twins." Bigs wrote letters, baked, created homemade items, and purchased FFA-themed presents for each of the Littles during the week. At the end of the week, the Littles were invited to an after school party where the Bigs were revealed, their photos were taken, and each student was given a t-shirt to commemorate the event.
"I could not be more pleased with the outcome," said Thompson. "The results can be seen at events where there is one large group rather than a handful segregated by grades. In addition to the cohesiveness, there has also been an increase in involvement. Younger members seem to get excited to be around the older ones, and the older members enjoy having a greater level of participation. The current Littles are excited to get a new batch of little brothers and sisters next year."
Thompson was the 2012 Ideas Unlimited award winner for Region II. For more information about the Ideas Unlimited award program and all other NAAE award programs, visit NAAE: Awards Applications.
See the attached documents for details about Thompson's award-winning idea.
The Ideas Unlimited award is sponsored by Delmar Cengage Learning.